Replacing My To-Do List with a To-Serve List
November 2019

Replacing My To-Do List with a To-Serve List

I was so wrapped up in my own to-do list, I didn’t realize I was doing all the wrong things

Mother taking notes while baby eats

I started my general conference weekend rolling out of bed, tending to my clingy toddler, and browsing the slim contents of my fridge for anything that resembled a well-balanced breakfast. The sound of the choir voices rang out from the television in my small living room as I tried to mentally put myself in the spiritual space to receive personal revelation.

I had so many questions that needed to be answered.

These questions had been racking my brain for months, and I knew general conference could offer the type of revelation that I had been so desperately seeking. Yet, as soon as I heard the “amen” of the opening prayer, I had already lost track of my thoughts and started creating a different list of questions.

How long is a load of laundry going to take?

Do I need to buy more diapers for daycare?

Did I put toilet paper on the shopping list?

What am I going to make for dinner tonight?

This mental to-do list became the focus of my mind as speaker after speaker stood at the pulpit and relayed messages inspired from God. I knew these messages were important, but if they weren’t catching my attention right now, then obviously they weren’t for me—obviously my to-do list was a bigger priority.

Opening My Heart to Service

Before I knew it, the morning session of conference was over, along with my opportunity to receive timely and personal revelation. Annoyed that I had gotten so easily distracted, I decided that no matter what, I would give my undivided attention to the next session of speakers.

Two hours, four laundry loads, and one nap later, I woke up feeling defeated and groggy. I had missed the entire afternoon session. Honestly, I felt like a failure.

Just as I was about to shut off the TV and end my day exactly the same way it had started, commercials from the Church started playing. Specifically, a commercial for JustServe.org. Shots of explosions destroying entire communities, families suffering, and refugees escaping their home countries in pursuit of a better life caught my full attention. All of this emotionally triggering footage was paired with one simple question that burned in my brain like livestock to a branding iron.

How can I do nothing when there is so much hunger, pain, and evil in the world?

It dawned on me that I had spent the entire day worrying about menial tasks on my never-ending to-do list, when all the Lord wanted and needed me to do was serve. The simple prompt You can do something lit up the screen, filling my heart with motivation. Yes, of course I can do something more. But what, exactly? And how?

The following day, President Russell M. Nelson taught that helping and caring for others would give us joy. My eyes were opened to opportunity as he recounted the Church’s current efforts toward helping and providing for less fortunate people around the world through Latter-day Saint Charities.

Not only had the Lord provided me with an answer, He had now given me the resources I needed to get started through the words of our living prophet!

A Different Kind of Answer

I had gone into general conference thinking about my future.

How does a newly graduated, 22-year-old working mom figure out what path she’s supposed to take?

As silly as it seems, I expected a clear answer telling me exactly what I was supposed to do next. It turns out, I didn’t get that clear answer I wanted. Heavenly Father didn’t tell me exactly what I needed to do. Instead, he prompted me to serve.

President Nelson said, “Giving help to others—making a conscientious effort to care about others as much as or more than we care about ourselves—is our joy. Especially, I might add, when it is not convenient and when it takes us out of our comfort zone” (“The Second Great Commandment,” Liahona, Nov. 2019, 100).

I still don’t know where I’m going to end up in 10 years, and that scares me. If there’s a comfort zone, I am definitely not in it right now. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m going to do in the next 10 minutes. But receiving the prompting to focus on others rather than myself opened the door for revelation. It showed me that even though I may not have a plan, the Lord does. He knows where I’m needed and what will bring me the most joy, and right now, service is my joy.

My New To-Do List

I know there are a lot of times in life where grocery shopping, doing laundry, and taking care of your home take priority—and they should! They are important and necessary. But sometimes we forget to also make serving others a priority. Here are some tips to remember when trying to prioritize service with everything else going in your life.

  1. Breathe

Life is overwhelming. It’s hard to feel accomplished when you’re always adding more things to do instead of actually getting them done. Take a moment and absorb how far you’ve come. If how far you’ve come is barely getting out of bed this morning to feed your cranky child some cereal, then that’s an amazing start! Keep going and don’t forget to breathe.

  1. Find Your Opportunities

After visiting JustServe.org, I found that there were so many opportunities for my family and I to serve others—and most of them only a 10-minute drive away! Find what works for you and set aside time each week to do that one thing.

  1. Do the Little Things

Service doesn’t have to be one big and grand gesture. It also doesn’t have to be for a stranger you don’t know or for a family you’ve never talked to. More often than not, the little things that we do for the people we love most make the biggest difference.

One night my husband was trying to study for a big test coming up that would determine whether or not he could pursue graduate school. He was feeling stressed and guilty for being locked up in the bedroom all day and not spending time with his family. I decided to let him know that I was grateful for his hard work and how blessed I felt to have a husband who is always providing and caring for me and our baby. He told me later the next day that he immediately felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders because I had taken the time to thank him.

Even just saying thank you or expressing gratitude can be an act of service to others.

It may not feel like you’ve got everything under control right now, but setting aside some time in our crazy schedules and our to-do lists to serve others can lead us to greater joy and peace in our lives. By following the prophet’s counsel and fully living the second great commandment, we can get closer to becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ.